A dash a pinch and a handful of magic.

einsteinlaughing2As with many other sites on the ‘net, some things on Pinterest appear dubious. Rub coffee grounds on yourself to remove hair? Sounds dubious to me. In my life, I’ve heard quite a few ‘old wives’ tales’, but coffee grounds sounds utterly crackpot to me. And some things I’ve seen there sound downright dangerous. Putting a bowl of ammonia in your oven and turning it on to clean it? I’ll pass on that idea. I’m quite confident I have never read nor ever will read that idea in “Hints from Heloise”. Heloise has a lot of credibility with me. Her recipe for window cleaner makes my windows sparkle.

Apparently a lot of people use the boards to find recipes and then wonder why the fairytale castle cake they made looks like a pile of rubble and not like the picture on the board. Hmm….Well, for one thing, did you really think your engineering skills were up to snuff? And did your school science projects ever work?

I don’t need Pinterest to experiment with cooking. In my family recipes were handed down verbally from generation to generation coming from ‘the old country’. Each generation showed the next how to make the family recipes.  Nothing was written down. No one bought or read cookbooks.

To my grandmother (the first of her family to come here – legally – through Ellis Island), cooking was an art and she was an artist. Measurements were imprecise, if specified at all. Her recipes consisted of some of this, some of that, a pinch, a dash, a drop and directions such as ‘til you get the feel of it’. Her cooking was magic. Everything she made came out perfectly every time.

I can remember watching her make ravioli and she was a one-woman production line. There was no pasta machine to roll the dough. She used a single cutter to shape each ravioli and went down the line of dough in one pass, no mistakes, each one perfectly filled, cut and sealed. My mother attempted to duplicate my grandmother sometime probably before I was born. She sprained her wrist making the pasta dough. She never attempted homemade ravioli again. Never wrote down the recipe and it left this earth with my grandmother.

My great-aunt – my grandmother’s sister – considered cooking to be a science. She precisely measured and weighed each ingredient. She specified the size of eggs to be used. Again, before I was born, my mother attempted one of her aunt’s recipes. It was a fail. She called her aunt who asked “Did you follow my instructions exactly? Did you use large eggs? If you didn’t follow my instructions exactly, don’t blame me if it didn‘t come out right.”

My great-aunt would have been extremely popular on Pinterest.

There is a specific cookie that always graced the Christmas table. We’re really not sure how the name is spelled, but we all know it to pronounce it. My grandmother used to make them. My aunt used to make them. They can be found in bakeries, but homemade is always better than store-bought. One year my cousin’s wife was going to make them. She told me she got the recipe from my aunt. Then she laughed.

“There are no measurements are there? Just a list of ingredients, right?”

Yep. This was why she was going to make them with my aunt who apparently learned my grandmother’s magic style of cooking.

Unfortunately my aunt died suddenly before Christmas so the recipe remains undocumented. We can spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out – though trial and error – how to make those cookies.

Clearly my mother’s generation failed us in preserving our heritage.  It was their job, their responsibility to make and document the recipes, then pass them on.  But we will be able to laugh for hours with stories of all our fails for years to come while consuming copious amounts of wine.



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